Swedish synth-pop quartet focuses more on the “synth” and less on the “pop” with their latest release, the seven-song Portico:. Last year’s Hit the Waves was chock full of catchy singles, sometimes veering away from the band’s multi-layered compositions but maintaining a decidedly ’80s feel. The end result was an ice cream buffet with no whipped cream; it was almost there. With Portico, Phillip Ekstrom & co. produced a more modern-sounding collection of tunes, at times getting closer to perfection, though still lacking the edge to push them to the next level.
The first two tracks, “Silence is a Gun” and “Naive Dream” would be examples against that claim. The former has a smooth and memorable verse, supported by cohesive sythesizers and Disintegration-era Cure beats. The latter is a toe-tapper, also hearkening back to the early days of MTV but with a new, shiny exterior. Those are prime examples of Ekstrom’s talents as a songwriter, talents that have shown progressive improvement to accompany the hype. Following that, “Ritual Mind” is a slower number that features some nice orchestration but doesn’t take you anywhere. “Everything Everything” is a toe-tapper, and the chorus hits the mark, but the synth layering is a little too thick to be effective.
The rest of Portico: follows suit. “Your Place” is the heaviest of the songs on the album, but doesn’t get quite loud enough to validate its fullness. It’s almost as if the band goes big, but is afraid to go BIG. Final track, “Portico: 2014,” is a calming instrumental, the kind one would expect to be played over a rainy epiphany scene in a John Hughes movie. None of this is necessarily bad; it’s all quite creative and lovely and pleasant. Hopefully, with The Mary Onettes’ next release, they will get a little dangerous.